October 10, 2013

Feature obituary: Virginia ‘Ginger’ Putnam, 44, devoted labor and delivery nurse

She is remembered as a loving mother, partner and dog owner.

By Melanie Creamer mcreamer@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BRUNSWICK – Virginia “Ginger” Putnam, a dedicated labor and delivery nurse and a popular nurse at Camp Laurel South in Casco, died Sept. 26 after a courageous fight against breast cancer. She was 44.

Ms. Putnam was remembered by her family this week a woman of incredible strength, perseverance and determination in her fight against cancer.

She was first diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma at age 14.

The early brush with cancer not only changed her life, but inspired her to become a nurse and help others.

She grew up in Scituate, Mass., and moved to Maine as a teenager to live with her grandparents. She graduated from Monmouth Academy in 1988, then pursued a degree at the University of Maine at Orono School of Nursing. She graduated in 1993 and began working as a registered nurse. She worked in labor and delivery at hospitals in Bangor, Augusta and Lewiston. She also worked briefly at Parkview Adventist Medical Center in Brunswick and Women to Women, where she was a birthing coach.

Her longtime partner, Bob Siff of Brunswick, said she was a caring, intelligent and competent nurse, who loved “bringing new life into the world.”

“Ginger was great with people,” he said. “She had a way about her that made mothers comfortable. She made the birthing experience a good experience. ... Labor and delivery nursing was her first love.”

Ms. Putnam was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and stopped nursing to focus on her health. A year into treatment, she signed on to continue working as a nurse at Camp Laurel South in Casco. There, she met Siff, the camp’s program director. On Wednesday, he recalled the day they met.

“She was bald,” he said. “I saw her walking down the road. She was wearing a hat. She had this huge smile. The way she carried herself wasn’t that of someone going through chemo treatments. You could tell she had a way about her ... a certain confidence about her. I was instantly taken aback.”

Siff reminisced about their first date. He said they left the camp for a few hours and had dinner at Pat’s Pizza. Then they took a stroll through Walmart to pick up supplies for the infirmary.

“We used to always joke around about it. It was so romantic,” he said. “She thought it was funny.”

In 2008, Siff moved from Florida to Maine to be with her and her son, Brad Leaman, 17, of Brunswick. Two years later, they bought a house in Brunswick. Siff said it was her dream home with a yard big enough for their dogs to run. At the time of her death, they had three dogs.

“She loved her dogs dearly,” he said. She had little voices for every dog.”

Ms. Putnam was a loving mother, who always put family first. She was close to her parents and two brothers. She was an active parent, attending her son’s school and sporting events.

In 2009, she was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer.

She and Siff were able to fulfill their dream of opening a summer camp, the New England Golf Camp at Sunday River.

“She was a huge part of opening the camp and running the camp,” he said. “I feel blessed that she was there to realize that dream with me.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:mcreamer@pressherald.com
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